Sunday, December 5, 2021

Xavi “pleasantly surprised” by Barcelona outcasts: report

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New Barcelona coach Xavi has been “pleasantly surprised” by center-back Samuel Umtiti’s performance in training since Ronald Koeman took over at the helm.

Umtiti has not managed a single first-team minute in 2021-22 after losing the pecking order at Camp Nou and has been regularly linked to an exit.

The central defender impressed Xavi early on and “it cannot be ruled out that he will have his first minutes after the international break,” as Javi Miguel reported at Diario AS.

Umtiti has been described as “excellent” and has enjoyed some “spectacular” sessions. The defender was personally congratulated by Xavi after training on Thursday and also applauded by his teammates.

The central defender himself started with “activation sessions” 30 minutes before training and his attitude “did not go unnoticed” by Xavi, as Jordi Blanco reports at ESPN.

A locker room source has also confided that Umtiti “is the first to go to work alone, and he does so with incredible demand”. The center-back’s future remains uncertain but he has the option to file a claim under Xavi before the January 1st transfer window opens.

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There is no doubt that Umtiti is in the middle of a difficult time in Barcelona. He has not played for the first team since his substitution against Eibar in May 2021 and was whistled by fans in preparation.

The world champion has admitted in an interview with Mundo Deportivo that it was difficult to hear the reaction from the fans but he is determined to show that he is good enough to keep playing for the Catalan giants.

“The pipes hurt. I never thought that would happen to this club because it’s the club I love, ”he said. [Mentally] It’s tough. There were tough moments with injuries, but now I’m better physically. I’m happy, but I want to play and help the team. The coach makes the decisions and I have to show that I’m good enough to play. I have to keep training hard. “

Umtiti hopes to win a few minutes in Xavi’s first game against Espanyol on November 20th. Gerard Pique remains in doubt due to an injury, which means Xavi will have to pick two Umtiti center-backs, Ronald Araujo, Eric Garcia and Clement Lenglet.

If Umtiti can’t convince Xavi of his qualities, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Barcelona try to sack the 27-year-old in the January transfer window.

The Portuguese side Benfica are a possible target for Umtiti, as reported by Mundo Deportivo. Jorge Jesus’ team have lost defender Lucas Veríssimo to a serious knee injury and are looking for a replacement.

Barcelona face Benfica in the Champions League on November 23, which also gives the two clubs the opportunity to discuss possible transfers before the winter window.

READ ON: Dani Alves celebrates Barcelona return in true style [WATCH]

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